Lularoe Fundraiser for Samantha & Mark’s IVF Procedure

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
~Ziad K. Abelnour

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I was so touched when my longtime friend, Sarah approached me about doing a Lularoe fundraiser for our IVF fund with her consultant, Loni Waltasti. I have known Sarah since I was in eighth grade…so almost 20 years…woah. We both acted at the local community theater. She was a few grades older than me, and she became a great mentor to me, and someone I always looked up to. By offering to do this incredible thing for my husband and I, she proved once again how remarkable she is.

Since Sarah is also the person who got me addicted to Lularoe, it was sort of extra special that she came up with the idea for this fundraiser.

These two ladies have worked relentlessly to create this event (I literally received one message about the event from Sarah like…an hour after she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl).

I love Lularoe. I love this company for the amazing products, the comfortable clothing, that is versatile, soft, comfortable and not too hot in the dead of summer. Most of all, I love the human face of this company. The people like Loni, who are running a business, while supporting their community, their friends, and their family. If you are a Lularoe fan, or a Lularoe newbie, I invite you to come shop this fundraiser.

Some of the proceeds will go to helping Mark and I shoulder some of the exorbitant IVF costs, and you might end up with a super cute outfit (or four). If you can’t shop with us, please let your friends know about this event. 

I have been an avid consumer of this brand for well over a year, and it probably accounts for at least half of the clothing I wear on a daily basis. Because of that, this is a product that I would 100% stand behind.

Let me know if you have any questions about this event, or just Lularoe in general.

You can join us on Oct 11 anytime between 5:30 PM to Oct 12 at 10 PM PDT to shop this event at this link:

Fundraiser for Samantha & Mark’s IVF Procedure

We hope to see you at the Lularoe fundraiser.

~Sam

Infertility and Adventures: Visiting England, Scotland, and Ireland

“To travel is to live.”
~Hans Christian Andersen

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My husband and I have returned home from our amazing adventure in Europe.

Well, truth be told, we came home almost a month ago, but out return was followed immediately by hurricane preparation, and eventually, evacuation. Thanks, Irma.

When we came back to our house after our mandatory evacuation, we went without power for 5 days, had to throw away every stitch of food in our refrigerator, and repair multiple pieces if damage to our property.

We got through it all though, and life is finally starting to feel a bit more normal.

Prior to our incredible adventure, I had never really traveled anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen a good chunk of America, but I had never really traveled outsider the US (minus a trip when I was in middle school to the Bahamas).

Having finally put a few stamps in my passport, I can now say that I agree wholeheartedly with the quote I have added to the top of this post.

 “To travel is to live.”

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Truly.

Our trip was such a wonderful distraction from our infertility. The planning of it helped keep my mind occupied, and experiencing three new countries was so incredibly therapeutic. On a train ride from Edinburgh to Inverness, I wrote in my journal that “travelling has made me realize how very big the world is, and how small my part in it is.”

I also realized when, after running into an old colleague from Los Angeles while I was in London, whom I had not seen in four years, how very small the world is.

I felt alive while we were travelling – more alive than I have felt in years.

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Each new city we came to felt like a whole new adventure. The people in England, Scotland, and Ireland were all so welcoming. The ancient building, and wide expanses of green everywhere was enchanting. Edinburgh specifically felt like magic. I completely understand why J.K. Rowling wrote so much of the Harry Potter series while in Edinburgh.

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I hope to come back and write a full post about each city after I finish going through all my photos. It took me nearly a month to sort through and edit just my iPhone photos…and I still have nearly 3000 photos on my DSLR.

It was pretty incredible so see so many castles, and other incredible sights. We went on a hike in Edinburgh, and in Inverness we got to take a boat across Loch Ness to the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

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Kilkenny, Ireland was another incredible old city, with parts of the town dating back to 1275. We even climbed to the top of a bloody tall old church tower. It had no stairs. We had to climb ladders. floor by floor. It was terrifying and it made me feel alive.

We ended our adventure in Dublin, where we learned to pour a perfect pint of Guinness, had a proper Sunday roast, explored the old Trinity College Library, and went on a pretty awesome spooky ghost tour.

And while our trip was incredible, and so good for our souls, we didn’t leave our infertility behind. It came with us on our adventure, and it is the part of me that I will always have to carry, no matter what happens down the line with our family.

So I did something I had been thinking of doing for over a year.

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I got a tattoo.

A beautiful tattoo with incredible meaning to me, in a wonderful nerdy tattoo shop in Dublin.

The tattoo is the Celtic knot for Motherhood, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was prefect. I think my husband was a bit concerned that the tattoo will make me sad, should we never be able to have children. I understand his concern, but my infertility is a permanent part of me. It does make me sad, but I cannot do anything to change the fact that I have endometriosis and may never be able to conceive.

A big part of our adventure this summer was to help me heal from the pains of the last few years, and to help bring my husband and I closer before we begin IVF. It seemed fitting to get the tattoo here, on the last leg of that journey.

Now that we are back, and the trip is over, I am struggling with my infertility. I have started crying again, and I have been consumed by bouts of hopelessness, now that I feel like I don’t have anything to look forward to. I know that I will be okay, though. I know that we can get through this together.

If we never have a family, that will suck. But something this trip taught me is the value of travelling. If we can’t have a family, I will make sure that we can at least see the entire world together. It’s not much of a consolation prize, I know…but this has reminded me that there are lots of things to live for.

I will try not to forget that again.

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Much love,

Sam

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
~Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor

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I know that I have not updated this blog in a pretty long time. I feel like I have had a lot on my plate between working two jobs, and juggling a barrage of attacks on my personal life, and on my home. I’ve had some hard times lately, but we have also had some great things going on in our life. So for now, I’m going to bring you, “The good, the bad and the ugly.” However, since I am a rebel, I will do this out of order. I think it will be most important to leave this post on a high note.

The Bad:

I have not been around my blog much.

Or at all.

I try to remind myself that this blog has been so helpful in my healing process…but for a long while, I felt pretty down. It was easier to stay optimistic while we were doing our IUI treatments both before and after my surgery.

Surgery was terrifying in so many ways, but we got through it because we were doing something that may have made a difference. But then, it didn’t really help.

I never got pregnant.

My endometriosis was officially diagnosed and I wasn’t quite stage two…and that was great news. But it didn’t matter.

Our IUI attempts failed because, as the doctor said, because of the endometriosis.

Once our fifth one didn’t work, I posted about IVF being our “best” chance. I always try to be an optimist, so I put this news in a good light. However IVF isn’t really our best chance. It’s our last chance. And we can’t really afford it.

We are trying. I put away every extra cent we have. But we purchased a small fixer upper a year and a half ago. Back when we were truly convinced IUI would work and we would soon have a baby to fill our second bedroom.

Our home is modest. Two bedrooms and one bathroom. Two small bedrooms. One very small bath. We were sensibile. It was our first home. We don’t need much.

But it’s a fixer upper. Though a child never came, the house was ours. We had to eventually get on with the “fixing” unless we wanted the house to fall apart. The “fixing” costs money.

The Ugly:

The same week we found out we needed IVF, our AC broke. Like…really broke. Our compressor blew out. For those of you in the know…that’s the most expensive part to repair in a central HVAC system. And before you ask…it’s less than five years old. That’s part of why we bought the house. Newer AC. 

Not so much…

Because of generous donations from our GoFundMe backers, we now have a small IVF savings account. That money is untouchable, but we had hoped to add our own money to it. But our home woes have only allowed me to add about $1050.00 to that savings.

The Really Ugly:

Oh, and did I mention I needed an emergency root canal but my dental insurance has already been used up for the year? So that’s costing us a pretty penny now, too. Dental insurance is a joke, by the way. 😦

I’m trying not to just whine and complain, but I’m frustrated and I feel like everything is just stalled right now. We don’t know when we will be starting IVF, and I think that’s left me in a state of helplessness about my reproductive chances. It makes me feel like I don’t have any control over my Infertility (not that I did anyway).

I feel like this post was super negative, so I want to leave it on a more positive note.

The Good:

Our quaint little fixer up was  desperately in need of a new kitchen when we bought the house. My dad is a retired carpenter, and so I was thrilled that he wanted to help me build the kitchen. I only had to pay for materials, which dramatically cut the costs of a new kitchen, and we finally (almost) finished the kitchen a few weeks ago.

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After:


We still want to replace the fridge (not pictured) and our gas range with stainless steel appliances, and we have a light switch cover or two to purchase, and a few drawer pulls to install; but for the most part this kitchen is done. And what a difference it made! I am beyond thrilled with the outcome.

It is so exciting to see something that I designed come together so beautifully. When I picked each piece: the shaker style cabinets, the counter tile, the back splash, the cabinet color – I had no idea if it would really all work. Obviously, my father’s expertise in carpentry was super helpful, and so he was able to dictate the functionally of each cabinet (the corner cabinets are beautiful, and huge, and deep…and did I mention the Lazy Susan?). That massive farmhouse sink is my favorite part of the entire design, and I think everything else works because it feeds off of that central focal point.

There are a lot more details of the new kitchen that these photos don’t highlight, but I’m hoping to save some of the reveal for once things are a bit more finished.

A Little More Good:

Remember that big trip to Europe my husband and I decided to take before IVF for our own mental health, to give us something to look forward to, and for the good of our relationship? Well, that is still happening…soon. Really soon. I felt a bit guilty planning this trip when I know how desperately we need money for IVF, but at some point I knew we just had to do this. We have been battling infertility for going on four years. I have had some of the lowest times of my entire life during our struggle. For years, nothing has mattered more to me than getting pregnant. I have had nothing to look forward to but a positive pregnancy test. I’m sure that at some point this behavior became unhealthy, but I didn’t know what to do to break the painful cycle.

Only a month or so after deciding to go on the trip, I knew it was the right decision, no matter the cost. Every day I had something to look forward to, that wasn’t contingent on my uterus. Every day I had something to plan. I searched for all the best deals on hotels, airfares, sleeper trains. I even booked a few tours. Did you know that you can go INSIDE Buckingham Palace if you happen to come in the late summer/early fall period when the Queen is away! I’m going INSIDE Buckingham Palace.

Things like this have really tickled me.

It sounds melodramatic to say that planning this trip reminded me of the importance of living life to the fullest, but it’s true. When going through hell for so many years, it can make a person question what life is really all about, and if there is even a point to any of it. I can say now, without a doubt, that I can now see a point in living. Even if that life is doomed to be forever childless.

Well, this novel of a post has gotten away from me. I guess that’s what happens when I stay away for months at a time.

I’ll try not to stay away so long the next time.

~Sam

Waiting for Magic: Crowdfunding IVF

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
~Ziad K. Abdelnour

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It was a really difficult decision for my husband and I to ask for help in our Infertility struggle. I know that people have many differing opinions about asking for financial assistance through sources like Indiegogo, You Caring, and Go Fund Me, and to some degree, I understand the varying viewpoints.

We recently shared our own Go Fund Me and campaign in an attempt to raise a portion of the money we will need for our IVF treatments, and it was something we spent a lot of time thinking about, and talking about, before deciding to go forward.

 

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Since posting the campaign, I have heard many differing opinions and viewpoints about crowdfunding this type of thing that are cruel, hurtful, and downright ignorant. I am lucky to say that none of these remarks have been directed at myself or my my husband, but I have seen numerous articles, forum posts, and even comments on other people’s IVF fundraising pages that made me feel like I should speak out.

I would like to take a moment to address a few of this points now, in an effort to educate and continue to raise awareness about struggling with infertility.

  1. It’s tacky to expect other people to pay for your baby: You have a right to your own opinion and if you feel that way, remember that you are in no way obligated to donate. Since going public with our Infertility struggle, friends, family members, even casual acquaintances have asked me how they can help. Well, this is one way to provide assistance to us in our struggle.
  2. People shouldn’t be sharing such personal details of their life on a public forum: If you have a problem in hearing about other people’s personal lives, try to keep in mind that this is YOUR issue and not mine. I’m happy to listen to my friends when they are in pain, and I want to be there for them to provide as much support as possible. Furthermore, infertility is still an incredibly taboo subject, despite the fact that 1 out of 8 couples suffer from this condition. Starting a conversation about this subject, and raising awareness, begins with putting a face with the name. Sharing my story has helped a lot of people in my life understand how painful and sensitive this topic is, and has helped them to better understand those who suffer. It was scary to make my story so much more personal, by announcing it on a public website like Go Fund Me, but it was also empowering. The outpouring of support we revived also made us feel so loved, which helps keep our spirits up as we face what is next.
  3. If you can’t afford IVF on you own you have no business having a baby: Come now. I would go out on a limb and say that most couples are not prepared for the financial cost involved with raising a child, but for the vast majority of them, at least getting pregnant is free. We have already invested thousands upon thousands of dollars on our infertility treatments. We know that we still have much more to pay before we can have a child, but we are trying to avoid racking up an obscene about of debt that will also serve as a constant reminder of our childlessness should our IVF attempts fail. Whether we raise the money we need it not, we are going to figure out how to finance the procedure. That being said, unsecured loans have higher interest rates, so any down payment or jump start on monthly payments will be a huge help for us. We hope that at the end of this we end up with an a baby, and that we will still have enough financial stability to be able to give our baby the life it deserves.
  4. What’s next? Are you going to expect other people to fund your medical needs if the child gets sick, or goes to college? Of course not. I put myself through college (and am still paying on that debt), and so in the worse case scenario I know that my child will be able put themselves through school should they need to. As for medical payments, my husband and I have solid jobs with good health insurance that will be able to cover all routine costs involved with our child’s healthcare. Unfortunately, our insurance (and 80% of heath insurance in this country) doesn’t cover IVF.

Infertility is not a routine medical issue. Research has discovered that women battling infertility have “emotional stress levels similar to cancer patients and cardiac rehabilitation patients.” Why then are people more sympathetic to those battling cancer or with heart issues? I’ve never heard so much criticism directed at people who start Go Fund Me pages for cancer patients. At the end of the day, regardless of the medical condition, we all just want to find our happiness and keep living. For men and woman facing infertility, having children is the only path they see going forward. Living a happy life is so intrinsically wrapped up in their ability to conceive.

At the end of the day, all I ask is that people treat us with kindness, compassion, and respect. If you don’t want to donate to my campaign, or campaigns like it, that is perfectly acceptable. No one is forcing you to, but perhaps try to keep your judgment to yourself. It’s hurtful and those of us battling infertility have enough hurt in our lives to be getting on with.

My deepest gratitude goes out to those of you who have supported our, or shared our story. You may never fully understand how much it means to us, but we will try to show our thanks as often as possible.

Thanks,

Sam

Mother’s Day Musings: 2017

“There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never come.”
~David Platt

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Mother’s Day is a tricky Holiday, isn’t it?

On the one hand, I am so lucky to have had not one, but four amazing women that have been mother’s to me in my lifetime. I know that I am the person that I am today because of the influence of each and every one of them. Today is a day that I wish to celebrate those great mothers, and great mothers everywhere.

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On the other hand, our infertility struggle is coming up on four years, and this day always fills me with so much heartbreak, as it serves as a painful reminder that I am still not (and may never be) a mom.

And it isn’t just me. This day is painful to so many people for so many reasons.

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Today, I think of these brave women as well.

This holiday is also tricky, because it reinforces some kind of twisted ideal that seems to imply that women are not wonderful, whole, or complete unless they are mothers. I cannot stand when people tell me that, “I don’t understand because I’m not a mother,” or something equally as ridiculous.

No woman is better than any other woman just because they were able to conceive a child. Hell, all evidence would show that for most woman, it isn’t even that HARD to become a mother. You know what is hard? Wanting to be a mother so badly, and constantly being denied. It is hard to put on a happy face every single day and try to live a life that can still feel fulfilling and remarkable even though you are breaking more and more every day.

Becoming a mother isn’t that hard for most people. But I do think that being a good mother is difficult, and today I am so thankful for those wonderful mothers who helped make me who I am; to the fathers who must fill the roles of both wonderful dad and wonderful mom, for those women who will be wonderful mothers someday; and for those woman who are wonderful mothers of angels.

I am also thankful for those woman who may never get to be the wonderful mothers they would have been. Your strength has helped me in so many ways, and the reminder that I am not alone in my infertility makes me stronger every day.

Earlier this week, my husband and I made the decision to partially crowdfund some of our upcoming IVF expenses. It was a difficult decision, not only because we think it is hard to ask for this kind of help, but also because we know that IVF is still no guarantee. However, the love, kindness, and support that has been given to us during our battle with infertility made us both feel that we owe it to those in our support system, to let them help us if they choose.

We have been overwhelmed with the support the campaign has been given so far, not just through donations, but also just through people sharing our story with others.

All of this love and support made me feel a little better about Mother’s Day for the first time in a long time. I had the day off, and so I made the last minute decision to invite my Mother (and Dad) to join me for the weekend.

We had dinner out last night, a nice brunch at home this morning (with mimosas) and an amazing lunch of steak, shrimp, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and salad, before they left to head back home.

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This is a difficult day for me, no question. But I know that this day also means something to my own Mom. Not just because she is a wonderful mother who deserves to be celebrated today, but also because her mother is no longer with us. Spending the day with her seemed like the right choice, and I’m so glad I asked her to come. It sure beats moping around the house all day while my husband works.

To all of you who read my blog, who struggle with today as well: I hope you found some small amount of joy or peace in this day. I hope you know that you are loved, that you are worthwhile, and that you are not alone.

I’m here for you,

~Sam

Our Infertility Story: IUI Round Five

“Sometimes you gotta take a break from all the noise to appreciate the beauty of silence.”
~Robert Tew

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So, I know that I touched on this briefly in my last post, without going into very much detail. I cannot promise that I will provide many details now either, as this is a particularly difficult post to write.

Our Intrauterine Insemination chapter of this journey has come to an end, and I wish that were happy news. But it is not.

When I went in for my Ultrasound four days before the procedure, I had two nice, large follicles. We decided to wait one more day to see if one other would get bigger, so I didn’t take my shot of Ovidrel until in the following evening.

I went on for my Fifth IUI two weeks ago today. When I walked into the office that morning, it was with a complete absence of hope. I still tried my best to put on a good face. I wore my new Star Wars Jacket, and a Star Wars shirt. Even though I didn’t have any hope, I still thought Star Wars was appropriate attire for the day: A New Hope? Maybe a little would turn up after all.

It didn’t really.

Aside from an incredibly long wait both in the waiting room, and in the exam room, the IUI went well. My doctor did the procedure again and I didn’t have any cramping. We talked for a few minutes, and then I laid down for ten minutes before rejoining my husband and heading home.

The first week of the TWW was difficult, because I was working every day and just obsessing over whether or not it had worked. We knew going into this that our doctor would be willing to do just one more if this failed. However, we also knew that decision was largely up to us. Before going in, I was already contemplating skipping any further IUI procedures. I was tired, both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to keep taking the hormones, and I didn’t want to keep crying every single day. Still, I knew we wouldn’t really make that decision until the end of this cycle.

We were away on vacation for the second week of the TWW, and that made things a little easier. We enjoyed spending time with our family and friends, and attending an amazing wedding.

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For the last day and a half of the trip, we went up to Pittsburgh, and did a bit of sightseeing in the city.

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No trip to Pittsburgh is complete with a trip to Primanti Bros, for their famous stuffed sandwiches (shown below with Kielbasa).

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The trip was lovely, and as always, was done way too soon. The good news was that we had a couple days off of work when we got home.

The bad news was that we walked inside to a broken AC…in May…in Florida.

Wednesday morning, when I woke in a very very hot house, I was cramping. My period started shortly after.

That was it. I cried for a while, before finally calling my Doctor’s assistant to leave my message. When she called me back a few hours later, she asked us if we even wanted to do another cycle. I really didn’t know, but not doing another cycle felt a whole lot like giving up.

My husband wanted to know if we could see the doctor.

Amazingly, he must have had a cancellation, he could see us the very next day. That is pretty rare.

We went in today at 2:30.

He talked to us about all of our options (which isn’t much), and explained the chance we have for conception with each procedure. And they were basically all the same…except for IVF…which has greatly increased odds of success. We also spoke briefly about the cost involved, and our financing options. It is going to cost a bit less than we had thought…but it is still a LOT of money. Money that we really don’t have.

For now, he recommended that we take a break. He thinks this whole process has been really hard on me (maybe because I cry every time he sees me?) and so he doesn’t want to do another IUI. With our low odds of success, I don’t think he believes it’s worth it. He wants to put me on something to help the pain and discomfort from the endometriosis (and to prevent the endo from getting worse), but my husband and I want to wait a couple months and try naturally for a bit. If I take medicine, I can’t get pregnant.

This is our plan for now. We want to try on our own just until we get back from our Europe trip in the summer, and then we will start IVF if we can figure out how to pay for it. Our doctor is going to have someone call us to discuss the costs involved.

I feel overwhelmed, tired, and an emotional wreck. I feel like not trying to do another round of IUI is tantamount to giving up…but I trust my doctor and his opinion. And I am so tired that I feel like we do need a break.

So this is where we are for now: Hanging in a bit of limbo, and trying to adjust to our new reality. If I’m being honest, I never really thought this would go so far. I never really thought we would need IVF. I think I just always assumed it would all work out.

So for now, I’m going to go pour myself a nice ice cold glass of wine in my sweltering hot home, and try to do something fun to keep my mind off of all this.

As always, thanks for reading.

~Sam